Sunday, October 10, 2010

The Australian does not follow a party line

Want proof?

A fortnight ago The Australian decided to unmask blogger Grog's Gamut, making a campaign of it.

His blog post that day was his last. (So far)

His final tweet was a retweet from James Massola, the just-hired journalist at The Australian's Canberra bureau who outed him:

RT jamesmassola @GrogsGamut should keep blogging -

Sadly ironic, hey?

James and his employer knew it would get Grogs in trouble with his employer - the public service. They as good as boasted about it.

Here's Massola in courageous mode:

"So why did I out Grog if I thought he should keep blogging?

As a prolific blogger and tweeter, Jericho was putting information in the public domain to provoke discussion and debate. It might have been a hobby, but by engaging directly via Twitter with dozens of journalists, Jericho and his views became part of the public debate - and in an age in which the dissemination of information has been democratised, his scribblings had an influence.

But there is a catch to this democratisation. With political influence comes responsibility and the need for accountability, in the same way that journalists are accountable for what they write, tweet and broadcast.

Jericho was anonymous, and public interest in his identity was growing parallel to his influence. In my view - and in the view of this newspaper - the fact he had a partisan point of view, worked in the public service and wrote about his department was a matter of public interest."

What was that James?

"With political influence comes responsibility and the need for accountability, in the same way that journalists are accountable for what they write, tweet and broadcast."

But never accuse The Australian of groupthink.

Because come Monday a week ago there was Henry Thornton, "the nom-de-plume of an eminent independent economist" writing his usual column, a day ahead of the monthly Reserve Bank board meeting.

Look at the snapshot above, click on the link. He gets to keep his identity blurred and gets to keep his day job.

Thornton tries to influence the Reserve Bank board for heavens sake! For all I know he is a director of a public company beholden to banks. As James would say, "his scribblings have an influence".

I do not think he should be outed, but you would think The Australian would if it took itself seriously.

It squashed Grogs because it could. I think it is protecting Henry Thornton precisely because it knows he is actually a person of influence, who it needs.

Oh, and he is conservative as well. Maybe that makes a difference.

In fact the Australian has a long history of using pseudonames, as Restless Capital outlines.

Martin Collins, for years unidentified, took his first name from Martin Place in Sydney and his second name from Collins Street in Melbourne.

Julie Posetti reports that some of The Australian's staff members are phoning the employers of pseudonymous bloggers in an apparent at intimidation.

Hope not. At least Thornton's safe.

The last word - for now - goes to the perceptive Sceptic Lawyer, who herself has a history of pseudonames:

"I dislike the cut-rate conservatism The Australian offers as representative of my side of politics"

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. No-one should be forcibly reduced to a single identity